News & Criticism

The Passions of Richard Wolffe


Contained within this Andrew Ferguson piece in the (no longer Rupert Murdoch-owned) Weekly Standard about obsequious mainstream media coverage of Barack Obama comes a welcome bit of LexisNexis deployment against triangle-headed Newsweek toff* and serial Keith Olbermann contributor Richard Wolffe. Who, Ferguson discovers, was lobbing love sonnets in George W. Bush's general direction as recently as four years ago:

One story Wolffe wrote to accompany Bush's second inauguration in 2005 carried the headline: "He's hands-on, detail-oriented, and hates 'yes' men. The George Bush you don't know has big dreams–and is racing the clock to realize them." The article added detail to this account of Bush's unbridled virility. "President Bush is by far the biggest agent of change in his own cabinet," Wolffe wrote.

Whether he's remaking his team or plotting his second-term policies, Bush's leadership style belies his caricature as a disengaged president who is blindly loyal, dislikes dissent, and covets his own downtime. In fact, Bush's aides and friends describe the mirror image of a restless man who masters details and reads avidly.

And then he called me Wolffy!

And so on, each layer thicker than the last.

Eight months later Hurricane Katrina hit, Bush's ratings tanked, and new orders came down. Wolffe now filed his dispatches for stories that declared: "Bush's leadership style and the bureaucratic culture combined to produce a disaster within a disaster…. It is not clear what President Bush does read or watch, aside from the occasional biography and an hour or two of ESPN here and there. Bush can be petulant about dissent; he equates disagreement with disloyalty."

Thank God Ralph Nader wasn't in charge

Speaking of Bush-era jock-sniffery from Manhattan's finest, in searching for that classic Vanity Fair photo spread of Dubya's virile cabinet just after 9/11 [possibly pictured], I noticed something peculiar about the mag's self-styled "huge archive of Bush-administration articles"—ain't nothing in it between October 2000 and September 2003, even though there are nearly 50 articles afterward. Did VF really not cover the Bush administration through September 11 and the Iraq War? I sure don't remember it that way….

For journo-pundits especially, but I think all of us too: Life really is better lived when you reserve your love for the deserving people you know, rather than the undeserving politicians you think you understand.

* A media pal of mine with more passports from the British Isles than I writes to say that Wolffe is "a Ladino-speaking Sephardic Jew. Don't assume all English accents betoken toffishness."